US Vice President Joe Biden greets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on his arrival to the Palestinian presidential compound in Ramallah, West Bank, March 10, 2010. UPI/Debbie Hill | License Photo
RAMALLAH, West Bank, March 10 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Israel's decision to build housing in east Jerusalem would "inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome" of peace talks.
"As we move forward, the United States will hold both sides accountable for any statements or actions that inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of talks, as this decision did," he said Wednesday after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank.
"The decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem undermined that very trust, the trust that we need right now in order to begin as well as produce -- have profitable negotiations," Biden said. "That is why I immediately condemned the action."
Abbas said the decision to approve the 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem would undermine "confidence and all the efforts that were exerted over the past months to launch the indirect negotiations."
But the Palestinian Authority president appeared ready to move forward with talks.
"The time has come to make peace, peace under a two-state solution -- based on the two-state solution, the state of Israel that lives in peace and security alongside the state of Palestine on the borders," Abbas said.
But, he added, "Again, I would like to call out to the Israeli government not to waste this opportunity to make peace."
Israel announced the new houses Tuesday as Biden arrived in the Mideast to try to pave the way for a new round of Israeli-Palestinian talks.